Written by attorney Robert Louis Gardana

Maritime Law: Costa Cruise Ticket – Forum Selection – Non US Cruises

The Costa Cruise Ticket – Forum Selection – Non US Cruises provides:

b) Voyages That Do Not Depart from, Return to, or Visit a U.S. Port - All claims, controversies, disputes, suits and matters of any kind whatsoever arising out of, concerned with or incident to any voyage that does not depart from, return to, or visit a U.S. port, or to this Contract if issued in connection with such a voyage, shall be instituted only in the courts of Genoa, Italy, to the exclusion of the courts of any other county, state or nation. Italian law shall apply to any such proceedings.

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals – NINA JANET SEUNG,Plaintiff – Appellant,versusREGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES, INC., PAUL GAUGUIN SHIPPING LIMITED, decided August 19, 2010.

The forum selection clause at issue here provides that:

For all cruises which include a port of the United States of America, it is agreed by and between the Passengers and Owners that any dispute arising out of or in connection with this Ticket/Contract shall be determined by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Fort Lauderdale . . . . For all cruises which do not includea port of the United States, it is agreed by and between the passengers and Owners that any and all disputes and matters whatsoever arising out of or in connection with this Ticket/Contract shall be litigated and determined, if at all, before a court of competent jurisdiction in Paris, France . . . .

Seung’s cruise departed from Tahiti, and was to travel only within French Polynesia.

Nina Janet Seung appeals from the district court’s dismissal of her lawsuit arising from injuries she incurred while onboard the M/S Paul Gauguin, owned by Defendants Regent Seven Seas Cruises and M/V Paul Gauguin Shipping Limited (collectively, “Regent"). On appeal, Seung argues that the district court erred in enforcing a forum selection claim that required the lawsuit to be brought in Paris, France, instead of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. After careful review, we affirm.

The Eleventh Circuit citing Shute, 499 U.S. at 593-94

Including a reasonable forum clause in a form contract of this kind well may be permissible for several reasons: First, a cruise line has a special interest in limiting the fora in which it potentially could be subject to suit. Because a cruise ship typically carries passengers from many locales, it is not unlikely that a mishap on a cruise could subject the cruise line to litigation in several different fora. Additionally, a clause establishing ex ante the forum for dispute resolution has the salutary effect of dispelling any confusion about where suits arising from the contract must be brought and defended, sparing litigants the time and expense of pretrial motions to determine the correct forum and conserving judicial resources that otherwise would be devoted to deciding those motions. Finally, it stands to reason that passengers who purchase tickets containing a forum clause like that at issue in this case benefit in the form of reduced fares reflecting the savings that the cruise line enjoys by limiting the fora in which it may be sued.

The Eleventh Circuit reasoned through and negated each of Plaintiff’s claims and

Thus, Seung, who chose to travel internationally, may have benefitted financially from the inclusion of the forum selection clause. The fact that she is an “elderly female plaintiff," that Regent’s headquarters are not in Paris, or that the forum is overseas does not mean that Seung’s current financial difficulties should dictate the invalidation of the clause. . . Nor are we convinced by Seung’s reliance on her medical problems. . . Seung has also failed to show that Paris is a remote, alien forum . . .

Furthermore, even if more of Regent’s cruises depart from Ft. Lauderdale than French ports, Seung’s ship notably did not depart from Ft. Lauderdale, but from French Polynesia. In fact, the contract expressly provides that had her cruise departed from any United States port, the appropriate forum would have been in Ft. Lauderdale. Thus, as a Florida state court has held in a forum selection suit also involving the Paul Gaugin, where “the Paul Gauguin both departed and returned from a foreign locale, never making contact with any ports or waters of the United States[,] . . . it is reasonable that Radisson selected Paris, France as a neutral location in order to dispel confusion as to where passengers from a variety of countries could bring a lawsuit." Burns v. Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, Inc., 867 So. 2d 1191, 1193 (Fla. App. 4th Dist. 2004).

What is your best argument to overcome such a strong policy as in this and Shute?

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